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The fire industry has made it absolutely clear, led by authorized bodies including the BAFE Fire Safety Register, that the current pandemic does not remove the need to comply with any fire safety requirements under the Building Regulations. As we now look beyond the lockdown period, John Allam, Operations Director at Amthal Fire and Security reviews the raft of new proposals demonstrating the Government and industry’s commitment to compliant fire safety and new immediate demands placed on responsible persons. Multi-Occupancy residential buildings Whilst the second phase of the Grenfell Tower Inquiry has been put on hold until July at the earliest over coronavirus restrictions, the government has continued its quest to effect change and bring the Fire Safety Bill and Building Safety Bill into legislation. While the Building Safety Bill will ‘place new and enhanced regulatory regimes for building safety and construction products’, both bills aim to strengthen the ‘whole regulatory system’ for both building and fire safety. The Fire Safety Bill will apply to England and Wales, to amend the Fire Safety Order 2005 and seeks to clarify responsibility for reducing fire risk in multi-occupancy residential buildings. The details of the Fire Safety Bill, which has now had its second reading in the House of Commons, includes recommendations of regular inspections of lifts and sprinkler systems for buildings over 11m tall. Quarterly fire door inspections Building owners will now face ‘enforcement action’ from emergency services if they do not manage fire risk Significantly, it also introduces compulsory quarterly fire door inspections, which is a hugely significant development in its own right, to influence an industry where this is no specific legislation that requires fire doors to be checked. The Fire Safety Bill intends to ensure evacuation plans are reviewed, regularly updated and communicated to residents in a ‘form that they can be reasonably be expected to understand.’ And it highlights the importance of individual flat entrance doors, where the external walls of the building have unsafe cladding, comply with current standards. This will play a key part in increasing residents’ fire safety, whereby building owners will now face ‘enforcement action’ from emergency services if they do not manage fire risk in a building’s structure. Improving the fire safety of buildings In addition, the government is consulting with the National Fire Chiefs Council to begin testing evacuation alert systems for high-rise blocks of flats, which could support fire and rescue services’ operational response by alerting residents if they need to escape. The National Fire Chiefs Council to begin testing evacuation alert systems for high-rise blocks of flats The new program will be governed by a Building Safety Regulator (BSR) that will initially be led by Dame Judith Hackitt during the set up phase, who will be tasked with improving the fire safety of buildings. Launched by The RT Hon Robert Jenrick MP Secretary Of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, he cited the new program as taking, “Ambitious steps to further reform the building safety system with the biggest changes in a generation to ensure residents are safe in their homes.” He added: “This new regime will put residents’ safety at its heart, and follows the announcement of the unprecedented £1 billion fund for removing unsafe cladding from high-rise buildings in the budget.” Major regulatory decisions The BSR will be responsible for all major regulatory decisions made at key points during design, construction, occupation and refurbishment of buildings. And such decisions and obligations must be upheld and maintained throughout a development’s life. The new safety case regime will apply not only to new buildings, but also to buildings that are already in use" In Dame Judith’s own words: “When introduced by the new regulator, the new safety case regime will apply not only to new buildings, but also to buildings that are already in use and occupied. If those buildings were built to poor standards in the past, it will not be the case that you can simply say ‘well it complied with building regulations at the time’. The test will be different. The test will be ‘is this building safe to be occupied?’ and, if not, what are you going to do to improve it?’ … People will be asked to think about what they can do, what is reasonable and what is practicable to do in order to improve the safety of a given building.” Regulating the fire safety industry Both Hackitt and the Government want the BSR to be set up in shadow form before the Building Safety Bill becomes law. The plan is to put the bill before Parliament by the autumn, despite the challenges thrown by the Pandemic. The new legislation proposed by Government will undoubtedly ensure that buildings and those that live and work in them are maintained to be fire safe. In the words of BAFE CEO Stephen Adams: “The time is right to help better regulate the fire safety industry to change end user behavior and create a UK that's safer from the devastating effects of fire.” As BAFE further attests, as lockdown measures begin to be lifted, there will be a need for the competent maintenance of fire safety systems/provisions and fire risk assessment work. Fire doors and risk assessments Amthal is working closely with building owners and managers across the UK to deliver the benefits of safer environment This means for those who own or manage residential buildings, will soon be ‘held into account’ if they do not ensure fire safety in their buildings, and the requirements will impact further on costs and resource allocation, for investigating buildings and ensuring compliance. There is a definite sense to be proactive in acceptance of the new impending legislation. But the concern cited amongst building owners is the industry’s ability to undertake the volume of assessments required, given the lack of current lack of specific legislation on specific elements such as fire doors and risk assessments, together with the steep expectations for fire strategy and evacuation plans. Amthal is working closely with building owners and managers across the UK to deliver the benefits of safer environment within a holistic fire safety approach. Working in partnership, means taking the time to understand the implications of the Government’s Fire Safety Bill, alongside the implications of the Building Safety Bill and BSR program. This way, we can ensure responsible persons confidently achieve all operational requirements for the ultimate benefit of residents’ peace of mind.
New government legislation due to come into force in the United Kingdom on July 1st will require electrical installations in privately rented properties to be tested and inspected at least once every 5 years. The Electrical Safety Standards in the Private Rented Sector Regulations (2020) will require landlords to enlist qualified electricians to complete inspections and provide certification to tenants – or face fines of up to £30,000. While the risk of fire can never be entirely eliminated, the new legislation will introduce higher levels of safety and ensure that one of the primary causes of fire – electrical malfunctions – is regularly tested for. There are a number of procedures and regulations in place for when a fire has already started, but this new law will help to reduce the chances of it getting to that point. After all, prevention is the best form of protection. No safety procedure or response plan will ever fully prepare someone for the reality of a fire. However, a comprehensive prevention strategy and use of the latest technologies to quickly detect and respond to a fire can at least reduce the potential risk to both life and property. Defensive detection A fire can spring from many sources. Current standards do a good job of ensuring properties are well equipped to defend against fires created by overcurrent caused by overloads and short circuits. A comprehensive prevention strategy and use of the latest technologies to quickly detect and respond to a fire can at least reduce potential risk However, electrical fires can also result from mistakes made during the installation process, namely loose cabling or aging circuits that will not be detected by overcurrent protection. Indeed, a defective or worn insulation is the cause of 14% of all electrical fires in buildings. The danger of landlords only performing the bare minimum to protect their buildings is that, should a fire start from a source they haven’t accounted for, the loss and disruption to property could be devastating. For maximum protection, individuals need reliable, innovative products that excel beyond the minimum standards to prevent a fire from starting in the first place. The pending legislation will add to this safety from the start. It will require landlords to use qualified electricians when installing, repairing and maintaining systems, benefitting both landlords and tenants by mitigating electrical issues and instilling greater confidence. Protection against insulation faults The risk of cable insulation faults grows over time and the consequences can be severe. Low-intensity arc faults are more likely to occur in humid, dusty environments, causing injury and deadly fires if precautions aren’t taken. Protection against insulation faults within cables can be assured by residual current devices (RCD), which are triggered by earth leakage currents exceeding 300mA. For maximum protection, individuals need reliable, innovative products that excel beyond the minimum standards to prevent a fire from starting Additionally, final circuits in critical locations (as recommended in IEC 60364), should be protected by an arc fault detection device (AFDD). This is a circuit breaker that automatically cuts off the electricity supply when it detects an arc fault in the circuit. By immediately stopping the supply, AFDDs stop arc faults from reaching temperatures where fires can break out. As well as ensuring that private tenants feel more safe and secure, the new legislation represents an opportunity for electricians to secure more work and develop their skills. Going forward, as the demand for electricians in the private rented sector rises, we expect to see greater opportunity for electrical engineers to win long running contracts with landlords and property managers. Fire may be a risk, but it is not unavoidable. This new legislation promises greater peace of mind for private tenants by ensuring that electrical standards are met and hazards reduced. With expert knowledge and the correct approach to electrical fire prevention, a fire can be extinguished before any damage is done.
There have been challenges with completing fire safety maintenance and installation projects during the current Covid-19 crisis, most notably as a result of the difficulties for installers in safely accessing sites. Many construction projects halted for lockdown and this resulted in approximately 50% of the British installers we work with having to furlough staff. The challenges, however, are not just restricted to the UK. With Kentec panels sold in more than 90 countries across the world, we have seen varying challenges on a global scale. Throughout this crisis, fire safety continues to be paramount and as such key players, such as Kentec, are rightly considered essential businesses. We have continued manufacturing life safety systems throughout the current difficulties and it has been our mission to ensure that where new installations can take place, our panels are readily available to installers, as well as the expertise and technical support that goes with it for ongoing maintenance. Orders for spare parts have also, in fact, been consistently high during this period, as installers have been able to complete minor upgrades safely and end users have taken advantage of the period to do so. Adapting manufacturing processes to align with government guidelines so that customers have not experienced any supply issues with any life safety systems or parts has been a major success. Critical Infrastructure We’ve personally seen an increase in sales for our industry-leading Sigma XT extinguishant panels during this crisis as it is widely used within critical infrastructure, in sectors such as telecommunications, data centres and healthcare. Adapting manufacturing processes to align with government guidelines has been a major success During lockdown, with a vast proportion of the population working from home and relying on the internet to conduct their business and virtual meetings, it has been more important than ever that there is no loss in service in broadband and telephone services. This means that highly reliable and robust fire extinguishing systems are essential to protect essential workers and vital equipment – not only from the risk of fire, but also from the catastrophic damage that false alarms and the release of extinguishant could have, for example, on server room equipment. Understandably, this has resulted in considerable investment in fire systems in these sectors. Glasgow’s Louisa Jordan NHS Facility The recent fire safety installation at the Louisa Jordan NHS Facility Glasgow – located at the Scottish Event Campus (SEC) which provides more than 500 COVID-19 beds – is just one example of essential fire safety work being completed during lockdown. Vipond Fire Protection Ltd installed a total of seven Sigma XT gas suppression panels, and 32 detectors located within the electrical room that serves the 10,000m2 facility. The project was completed in what was an extremely tight seven-day turnaround, delivering proven reliability within a crucial healthcare facility. Kentec's Experience Operating Through Covid-19 We have learned that operating through this crisis and supporting installations that are going ahead is best achieved through detailed planning, communication and collaboration. For example, we’re supporting our distributors by shipping directly to their customers, when it is not safe or feasible to open their warehouses. Operating through this crisis is best achieved through detailed planning, communication and collaboration Our own workforce is also adapting to changing work patterns and demands. In the factory, at a practical level, this has meant implementing new shifts schedules starting from six o’clock in the morning to ten o’clock at night to ensure there are never too many people on site at one time. We have staggered arrival, leaving and break times to mitigate any risks involved at entrances, and we were lucky that space allowed us to make the canteen area bigger and increase the number of toilets from three to ten. We have moved work benches to ensure a safe distance between each employee, and where workflows make two-metre distancing impossible we have installed six- and eight-foot screens. Face masks have been provided to all staff and we are also trialling face shields for further comfort and protection. Our office staff have worked from home, and where going to the office has been necessary, they have similarly adhered to staggered arrival times. Internal communication has been essential and I’m immensely proud and extremely thankful for the positivity, proactivity and support that employees have shown through this process. We have also adapted our Kentec Installation Partner (KIP) scheme to be fully remote to ensure training and support is there when it is needed for our installers. We are hosting webinars as another forum to solve installer queries remotely, and our new range of Taktis panels have highly advanced networking capabilities and a vast suite of communication tools that support remote monitoring. It is therefore critical that our installers fully understand how to help end users realise the benefits such panels can deliver and to ensure their installations are completed successfully. Looking Ahead To The New Normal Remote monitoring will become increasingly important beyond this crisis We feel that remote monitoring will become increasingly important beyond this crisis and the advanced communication capabilities of panels will be essential for both installers and end users alike. For installers it reduces the amount of time required on site, because they can access the system remotely to find out what equipment or parts they need to take with them. Similarly, for end users they can access systems remotely to check any alerts or queries off site if necessary. It remains to be seen how the rest of 2020 will pan out, but where projects have been necessarily put on hold, because of the essential nature of our industry we are confident that installers will be able to quickly and easily return to these projects when it is safe and feasible to do so. Communication, collaboration and support will continue to be essential in mitigating the challenges in our future ‘new normal.’
ISE 2019 proved to be a great success for ASL as they welcomed clients, old and new and distribution partners on the ASL stand at Amsterdam RAI for the duration of the exhibition over four days. ASL VIPEDIA-PRO router The new ASL VIPEDIA-PRO router with Dante, along with the all-in-one PAVA solution ASL INTEGRA and ASL V2000 were on display with a full complement of ASL technical, sales and marketing staff on hand for the duration of the show to discuss new and existing project opportunities. ASL VIPEDIA-PRO router with Dante, along with the all-in-one PAVA solution ASL INTEGRA and ASL V2000 on display Head of Business Development for ASL, Neil Voce comments, “We had a steady stream of visitors to the stand over four days, including a number of visits from potentially very large new clients looking to fulfill some large-scale project requirements”. Products at ISE 2019 “This year we made a decision to move the position of our stand to a new location very close to one of the major entrances for the show which meant we had all stand personnel in position bright and early every day to welcome visitors as they arrived. ISE is a great opportunity to meet with customers, both existing and potentially new ones and we really appreciate everyone taking the time to come and visit us here in Amsterdam”. “At times throughout the show were overrun with visitors exploring the ASL products on display. ASL also has some interesting new products on the horizon too, which we were able to present and discuss with customers, which made for a very enjoyable show”, concludes Voce. Integrated Systems Europe 2019 If you didn’t make it to ISE 2019 there’s always next year. ISE 2020 runs from 11th-14th February 2020, we look forward to welcoming you.
FIREX 2019 was a great success for ASL as the company welcomed clients, distribution partners and media at ExCeL London, renowned international convention center in London, UK for the duration of the exhibition. FIREX 2019 Head of Business Development at ASL, Neil Voce comments, “ We got the opportunity to discuss a number of new projects with existing clients and new prospects over the course of the exhibition, with visitors from the UK and overseas, so for ASL it was a great exhibition ”. Gemma Eastwood, Sales Support for ASL comments, “One of the biggest benefits, of attending and exhibiting at FIREX, is getting to meet customers face to face. I have a lot of correspondence with UK and non UK customers and FIREX was a great chance to develop these customer relationships further.” Fire safety exhibition Neil Voce concludes, “We really appreciate everyone taking the time to come and visit us at FIREX and look forward with catching up with everyone after the show too”. For those who couldn’t make it to FIREX 2019, there’s always next year. The 2020 edition of FIREX is scheduled to take place a little earlier in the year, from 19-21 May 2020 at the same venue, ExCel London.
UK manufacturer of security systems, ASL, located in Lewes, East Sussex has been recruiting apprentices since early 2012 via the UK Apprenticeship Service. Working with local training provider Sigta Training, ASL currently employs five apprentices, four in engineering and one in business and administration, at ASL’s head office in Lewes. An apprenticeship is a genuine job combining practical training while working with study. Apprenticeships can run for up to four years and include on the job and off the job training and are available at Intermediate, Advanced, Higher and Degree levels. UK Apprenticeship Service A full list of available apprenticeships can be found on the gov.uk website Apprenticeships are available in a very wide variety of subjects including electronics, mechanical engineering, building services, welding and fabrication, electrical engineering, sheet metal work, plant maintenance, business administration and many more. A full list of available apprenticeships can be found on the gov.uk website. At any one time there are between twelve and twenty thousand apprenticeship vacancies online. Applicants can search the gov.uk website using keywords to find the apprenticeship they are looking for. Off-the-job training Once accepted for a position, a training provider, Sigta Training in the example of ASL, has a key role to play in providing off-the-job training, assessing progress towards achieving qualification and providing support during an apprenticeship. Annette Brown, HR for ASL comments, “We currently have five apprentices within the team at ASL. Apprentices have to work hard to succeed, juggling their studies whilst working, and they have to produce a portfolio of evidence to support their learning." ASL apprentices “There is no guarantee that apprentices will be offered full-time employment once they complete their apprenticeship but I am happy to report that Sigta Training has been an excellent apprenticeship partner to work with and since we started working with Sigta, all ASL apprentices have been offered full-time employment with the company," continues Brown. Jason Dann, technical project manager at ASL has completed his CAD apprenticeship with ASL and Sigta two years ago and is now employed in the role of Technical Project Manager for ASL. Gemma Eastwood, employed in a Sales Support role with the company, completed her business and administration apprenticeship earlier this year. Gemma now assists with training ASL’s newest apprentice, Emily Bonner, who is employed in Gemma’s previous receptionist roles and general administration duties. value apprentices The best thing to come out of my apprenticeship with ASL is an actual job" Jason Dann comments, “The best thing to come out of my apprenticeship with ASL is an actual job. By the end of the apprenticeship you realize how valuable you are to the company and how much they appreciate your skill set. Companies don’t want to lose you, good companies like ASL value apprentices." “I enrolled on an apprenticeship rather than going to college or university because of the experience I would be offered and I wanted to be earning an income at the same time. Most of the companies I speak to value apprenticeships above purely academic qualifications gained at college. I know a lot of people in this industry and they actually prefer people to come up through a training scheme rather than through university. You definitely gain a lot of knowledge and hands-on experience working within a company in the industry," continues Dann. Project management expert “I currently run project management for a rail network, where we are removing old public address systems and installing new ones in more than one hundred train stations. ASL has been very good to me, I informed the company that I wanted to be managing projects and they drafted a route for me to get there and gain all this experience," states Dann. “One of the things I have enjoyed the most is gaining knowledge and experience from senior people within the company. I started in 2D then 3D design and was trained in test, build, manufacturing, software and firmware to gain the relevant experience to get where I wanted to be ”, concludes Dann. Training and qualification Gemma Eastwood, Sales Support, ASL said, “My apprenticeship gave me a starting point and gave me experience of working in a professional workplace. I found out about the apprenticeships on the government website and applied. ASL has been very good in giving me the knowledge I needed to complete my apprenticeship ”. “My apprenticeship was work based and Annette Brown in HR at ASL provided lots of ongoing of support. Sigta came in regularly, once a month, to assist my progress and steer my development ”, continues Eastwood. Engineering Apprentice David Worth, Engineering Apprentice in the Qualification Team at ASL is midway through his apprenticeship “My apprenticeship has been really good for me and has allowed me to progress from receptionist and general administration duties to a sales support role. I now provide sales quotations for customers, customer support and deal with telephone enquiries from customers and I really enjoy the variety my role offers ”, summarizes Eastwood. David Worth, Engineering Apprentice in the Qualification Team at ASL is midway through his apprenticeship. Having started in April 2016 he will conclude his apprenticeship in November 2019. He began his apprenticeship with ASL working as a CAD engineer studying in Electrical Engineering. He hopes to achieve an Advanced / Level 3 Diploma and will spend his final year amassing evidence and experience to meet his qualification. Retail expert “My apprenticeship with ASL has allowed me to develop my skillset and I now carry out lots of test work for equipment before it is dispatched to site. I started at the age of twenty two after leaving college with my A-levels and taking a few jobs in retail before deciding what I wanted to do ”, continues Worth. “The company has been really important in helping me achieve my development and growth objectives and provides lots of opportunities for me to stretch my legs in my role, particularly if I compare my experiences with those offered to my peers completing apprenticeships in other companies ”. Sigta Training David Underwood, Sigta Training, picks up the story, “We have a great track record matching apprentices with high quality companies offering apprenticeships in a wide range of engineering, manufacturing and business administration courses ”. “We choose to work with excellent companies willing to engage in real career development and opportunities for young people. We provide access to careers for young people and allow them to develop skill sets that cause them to progress within the companies they are working for. We visit apprentices regularly during their apprenticeship to monitor, review and assist their development and ensure they are being treated well and remunerated accordingly ”, adds Underwood. Apprenticeships Apprenticeships are returning to favour, certainly as far as the apprentices at ASL are concerned David further states, “We also work very hard locally and national to encourage young people to get on board with apprenticeships, visiting lots of schools, colleges and local events to promote the wide variety of apprenticeships available with Sigta Training. I’ve lost count of the number of company CEO’s, directors etc that I meet later in their life who tell me they started their careers with a Sigta apprenticeship.” Apprenticeships are returning to favor, certainly as far as the apprentices at ASL are concerned. It appears this is an increasing trend with younger people as they recognize they can access careers of their choosing whilst potentially ‘earning and learning’ at the same time. The apprentices at ASL are very optimistic about their futures. CAD Apprentice George Workman, a CAD apprentice with ASL, joined the team in 2018 after finishing his A-levels and studying a BTEC in Engineering at college. He decided he didn’t want to continue his studies at University and also found the position with ASL on the government apprenticeship website. George adds, “Since starting at ASL I have had to learn a lot of software packages, I’ve learned animation, 3D modeling and acoustic design and it’s been really nice to get into detailed use of the software. The training at ASL has been excellent, 90% of my electrical knowledge has been gained here ”. Business & Administration Apprentice “My role here is very varied, I’ve been to site and I’m now responsible for rack build schematics for projects, as well as the electrical schematics, working to EN54 standards, it’s challenging, intense but at the same time really great for my own personal development ”, summarizes Workman. Emily Bonner, ASL’s newest apprentice in business and administration sums up the benefits of getting on board with an apprenticeship at ASL adding, “After leaving college and working in retail jobs I found the opportunity at ASL. My job here is a lot more business minded than where I worked before and whilst I am very new here I am receiving great training from Annette Brown and Sigta, who visit me at work once a month. Hopefully my apprenticeship may lead me to a role in accounts or something similar in the future ”.